By ICIM member Valeska Wells, DO: Sleep matters

January 30, 2018


Everyone knows that sleep is important, but did you know that it can impact your weight? 

If you’re trying to drop a few pounds, maybe you should think about your pillow.  While sleeping doesn’t take away the benefit of eating healthy and exercise, it does play a key role in the management of your body weight.
Several long term studies have been conducted to look at the impact of sleep on your weight.  These studies found that inadequate sleep was associated with higher weight in children and adults.  In adults, studies found that sleep and the intake of sugar and caffeine were inversely related (the less you sleep, the more likely you are to reach for those donuts and coffee).  These studies also found that the less you sleep, the more likely you are to eat or snack at late night hours, and more likely to choose sweet or salty snacks.  These late night snacks can impact your metabolism and predispose you to weight gain.
When looking at children and sleep habits (even when other factors including parental obesity, TV time, and physical activity are removed from the equation), children who don’t sleep enough are more likely to be obese.  Some factors that can impact your infant’s sleep include the introduction of solids before 4 months of age and infant TV viewing.  Childhood sleep habits may also have a long-term impact on adult weight.  One study showed that each hour reduction in sleep resulted in a 50% higher risk of obesity by early 30s in adulthood.  Early US trials are showing some positive impact on teaching new parents ways to develop good sleep and feeding habits in their newborn and the prevention of obesity during toddler years.
Sleep is so important regardless of the lifestage, with more and more reasearch showing it’s impact on your weight throughout your life.


So how does your sleep actually impact your body weight?

  • Sleep alters hunger hormones.  The less sleep you get the higher those hunger hormones become and the lower your satiety hormones become.  This can cause you to crave fatty and carbohydrate rich foods.  It will also prevent you from being satisfied when you do eat enough.
  • You have more time to eat.  The more time you have to eat, the more likely you are going to consume more calories during your awake hours.
  • You’re more likely to snack more.  Less sleep is associated with more snacking.
  • You may make less healthy choices.  Studies are showing that those who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to eat out and have irregular meal patterns (hello drive through?).
  • Decreased physical activity.  How many of you feel like going to the gym when you are fighting to stay awake during the day?  Studies are showing people who don’t have enough sleep are more likely to watch TV instead of doing physical activity.  This will also allow you to pack on the pounds.
  • Lower body temperature.  People who are sleep deprived tend to have a lower body temperature which results in a lower amount of calories your body needs.

Ideal sleep should be between seven to eight hours a night for adults.  Recent research shows only about 26% of American adults are getting enough sleep at night.  How is your sleep?

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